London-centricity & Blogs Around Britain

Pie & Mash shop, East London.

Our post on under- and over-exposed UK breweries prompted a comment from Tandleman suggesting London breweries get unfair attention.

In subsequent comments and on Twitter, others enthusiastically agreed. Is there something in what he says?

Numb3rs

There are now almost 80 breweries in London (about 6 per cent of the total number in the UK) but, when we challenged ourselves, we could name only 13 off the top of our heads. Bearing in mind that, compared to most people, we pay pretty close attention, that suggests there are a good number of London breweries about which no-one is talking very much at all.

Then there’s this list of the breweries our readers think are ‘the usual suspects’:

 Adnams (Suffolk) | Batham’s (West Midlands) | Beavertown (London) | BrewDog (Aberdeenshire) | Brodie’s (London) | Buxton (Derbyshire) | Camden (London) |  The Kernel (London) | Magic Rock (West Yorkshire) | Red Willow (Cheshire) | Siren (Berkshire) | Thornbridge (Derbyshire) | Wild Beer Co (Somerset)

That’s thirteen breweries of which four are London-based — clearly more than its fair share. (Though some were suggested by people who believe London-centricity is an issue so that’s a bit circular.)

Here are a few more lists that might also be helpful:

Our gut feeling on digesting all of that is that London breweries probably are slightly over-represented, but not hugely.

Demographics

London has a population of 8.5 million (city) or 9.8m (greater urban area) meaning that something like 14 per cent of everyone in the entire UK lives in London.

For comparison, Manchester has 500,000/2.5m (3.9 per cent) and Birmingham 1m/2.4m (3.8 per cent).

There are also reckoned to be ‘over twice as many 25 to 29 year olds in Inner London than in the rest of England‘ and the median age of a Londoner in 2012 was 34 compared with 39.7 for the rest of the UK.

In other words, the kind of people who drink ‘craft beer’ and write blogs (can anyone find a better source than this?) are more likely to live in London, and they are, of course, going to write about the beers to which they have access.

The Mainstream is OK

Though this article in the Independent last week was a bit of a mis-fire (‘London is still the craft beer capital’) it seems to us that professional journalists and their editors go out of their way to avoid being London-centric.

For example, Will Hawkes, who lives in London, has recommended 37 beers in the Independent in the last year, 8 of them from London.

The Guardian’s Tony Naylor is based in Manchester and wrote this notably Manchester-centric article, as well as guides to pubs and bars in GlasgowLeeds and Liverpool.

What’s missing?

Where there is a gap in regional coverage is, unfortunately, the blogoshire.

A few years ago, beer blogging was all but dominated by Leeds. Now, Leigh Linley has taken a job in the industry and temporarily put his blog on hiatus; Zak Avery posts infrequently (though it’s always good when he does); while others have moved to other parts of the country, had children, or otherwise run out of steam.

By their own admission, Birmingham bloggers Dan Brown and David Shipman are both ‘semi-retired’.

And our favourite Bristol beer blog hasn’t posted since 2013.

Meanwhile, two of the UK’s most consistently readable, funny, entertaining, interesting and visible bloggers, Chris Hall and Matt Curtis, are based in London.

In conclusion, if writing about beer is London-centric, and it might be a bit, it’s partly because London is bothering to write about beer.

This was meant to be a quick before-breakfast post and we haven’t had much time to double-check facts and figures. By all means question or correct us in the comments below.

33 thoughts on “London-centricity & Blogs Around Britain”

  1. Might also add that London has >10% if the nation’s pubs. Oh, and > 10% of CAMRA members live here too.

  2. I live miles away from London, in a region dominated by small, traditional breweries (Norfolk), so I’d like to think that I don’t have a bias. Over half of those ‘usual suspects’ are amongst my favourite breweries. So maybe they are just any good and deserve all that attention. Or maybe I am just easily led 🙂

  3. Ironically one of the only times I ever see posts about London breweries and bars is on Tandleman’s blog.

  4. Not so long ago, the only beer from London I could have named would have come from Fullers. Does this mean that Londoners had a near blank slate (like the USA) and as such are not restrained by tradition. Less ‘boring brown bitter’ that although well made is hardly going to fill column inches and more stuff that is new or interesting and is actually worth writing about.

  5. Leeds blogging wasn’t just about Leigh and Zak, though certainly they are two of the most prominent and earliest bloggers. What about hopzine.com, beerprole, Ghost Drinker, and dare I say it, myself? We were all proud to be part of a thriving scene which many of those writers are still in – though some of us have sadly moved on to pastures new.

    1. Couldn’t list you all! You’re included under moved away/babies. Am I right in thinking you live in London and work in St Albans now?

    2. all of those (with exception of maybe hopzine (vlog not blog ;)) have seen a dramatic decline in number of posts, as has broadford brewer.

      In fact most UK beer blogs with exception of the aforementioned chris, matt, tandie, mudgie and B&B all seem to have declined (myself included)

      1. I think you’ll find that both my and Tandleman’s output has substantially diminished, although I’d say Twitter was the main reason in my case rather than lack of time or loss of interest. Very often now I will just link to something on Twitter rather than do a short blogpost about it, although the latter would generally provoke more discussion. I have said to myself that I should do more snippet-type blogposts, but in practice it hasn’t happened.

        There is quite a substantial body of currently active North-West based beer blogs – see the sidebar here. One that sadly seems to have dropped off the radar recently is RedNev 🙁

        Another factor is that someone from Birmingham or Leeds is much more likely to visit London from time to time than a Londoner doing the opposite, as London is the capital and the hub of the country. As someone said above, I probably read more about actual London pubs from Tandleman than anywhere else.

  6. Also I’d refute the the fact London has always been the capital of British beer in the blogging age, for years it was woefully far beyond the likes of Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. Both in numbers of breweries (just 23 as of Good Beer Guide 2013) and in terms of good places to drink those beers – particularly on cask, which was and to a certain extent still is London’s achillies heel.

  7. I’d have to disagree with you to a certain extent as it most certainly depends on the blogs you are aware of and reading. I could pick out Paul Baileys Beer Blog and Look At Brew as just two which cover local breweries and events (in Kent and Sussex respectively).
    As for myself I am now looking towards my home county of Essex, particularly with reference to two of my last three posts, and have stated that the local beer seen is my focus for this year. I realise that it was under-represented, and this was one of the reasons that we started Beer East Anglia, and even though London was on our doorstep so to speak, beer in Essex is largely overlooked by those of us who live there. I’m sure this isn’t peculiar to my county either, with the shiny craft beer bars of the big city attracting our attention (guilty as charged) but I feel we have a responsibility to ourselves to help facilitate change and education at a local level.
    I think that the rise of breweries following the London model but, us locals, well we don’t like change do we?

  8. My comment was kind of tongue in cheek, but most beer blogging and indeed most beer writing doesn’t reflect real drinking any more than the craft beer revolution does. In vast swathes of the country people just go about their boozy business caring not a jot about such things.

    Beer blogging has changed too. Most of us were just amateurs, now many are professional, or aspiring professionals who push their own agenda. Some are not, but sadly, the best writing tends to come from those who see it as a career, though frankly it isn’t always to this reader at least, the most interesting. Blogging about everyday beery experiences is what is on the wane as it the community feeling we used to have in beer blogging. The passion – if there is any is in self promotion and being positive about beer no doubt with one eye on the career.

    What we need I think is more critical comment? Where’s the individuality?

    So if London shines and gets more mentions than it actually deserves, it shines for the reason it always does. It is where the money is.

    1. Funnily enough, we had tongue-in-cheek in the first draft and then thought it safest to leave it out.

  9. Thanks for the very kind words guys – It’s immensely kind of you and really appreciated.

    Chris and I often talk about trying not to be London-centric but we are so very *immersed* in the beer culture down here and sometimes you’ve just got to go with what you know. We are working on a project that we hope is going to promote the very best parts of the UK’s beer culture and, along with our colleagues Ruari O’Toole and Craig Heap (excellent Newcastle and Cardiff based blogs by the way) we’ve done an awful lot of travelling these past few months to try and find it. Hopefully whatever doesn’t make it into the finished version of what we’re working on will surface on our blogs and go towards making what we do much less focused on the capital.

    It’s funny though because what I write about the breweries people have said we’re paying too much attention to gets far more interest and clicks on my blog. I felt that I’d written some really interesting pieces on my winter travels to the US including a trip to the fascinating sour beer production facility at New Belgium but the articles I wrote about brewing with Camden got almost three times as many hits as those I wrote about my travel experiences.

    I guess that inside the beer bubble hearing about the same old thing can get a little boring and repetitive but the evidence is there to support that more people are interested in reading about breweries they can easily experience such as Camden, Adnams and Beavertown – breweries that they can buy beers from pretty easily without having to look too hard. These people outside the bubble who don’t spend time on twitter or write blogs or comments on blogs but do enjoy reading about something that is both exciting and tangible.

    I think there are probably a lot more young beer blogs that already exist, bubbling away under the surface that we don’t know about yet. We’ve just got to find them and encourage them to post more – I certainly feel like I wouldn’t have gotten established as I am now without encouragement from people like yourselves, Melissa Cole, David Bishop and Zak Avery, to name just a few.

    1. the evidence is there to support that more people are interested in reading about breweries they can easily experience such as Camden, Adnams and Beavertown – breweries that they can buy beers from pretty easily without having to look too hard.

      I’m afraid that’s a very London-centric perspective! I see Adnams beers every week at the supermarket, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen either of the others, in bottle or on tap. Darkest Manchester here.

      1. You see Camden Hells, very, very occasionally, but I’ve never been bothered to try it.

        Beavertown were one of those breweries I always read about but never saw in real life, but in the past 12 months their brightly coloured cans are suddenly absolutely everywhere from posh burger restaurants to street food stalls to the fridges of unlikely pubs.

      2. Depends a bit on where you are, probably? Camden seem to be a fairly standard choice for pubs around here that are trying to “do craft” by sticking on one or two non-macro keg lines, but I’d imagine that the further you are from their distribution range, the less likely they are to show up. Which suggests in turn that if this stuff is popular on blogs because it’s familiar, then a lot of the readers of those blogs are based in London and the South East where Camden and Beavertown are familiar. More Northern readers might be more likely to follow a link to an article about Magic Rock or Marble…

        In general, I can understand people not being that interested in blog articles about the writer having been to an amazing place that you’ll probably never go and drunk an awesome beer that you’ll probably never get to try. I’m relatively geeky about beer, but whatever interesting perspective the author’s come up with I’d rather read about stuff that I might actually drink at some point. But then, the interesting middle ground – and I think what this discussion is really about – is how much interest you get for blogging about UK breweries whose stuff is feasible to track down but which aren’t written about so often.

      3. I was in Manchester researching the project I’m writing back in November, Phil and out of 11 pubs I visited on that trip Camden and Beavertown were in more than half of them. I was actually a little disappointed, I wanted to be surprised by something local I hadn’t heard of yet!

        1. That hasn’t been my experience – although to be honest I don’t always scrutinise the keg taps very closely! As for being surprised, you probably went too far up (up?) the craft scale. I can think of a few very old-school ‘pubby’ pubs where the beer range is mostly nothing very unusual but somewhere small & relatively local is regularly featured. One of my locals, the Beech in Chorlton, has a core range of Landlord, TT Golden Best, Summer Lightning… and something from Salamander (Bradford). Or there’s the city centre pub which majors on Moorhouse, but with a couple of beers from Green Mill (Saddleworth).

          What you’re not likely to find, in pubs like these, is any individual beer that’s particularly surprising or outlandish – but if they were, they would have been picked up on the craft radar & made it into the specialist bars. Blackjack are a great example of a brewery which has made exactly this journey, from two or three shades of brown bitter to a bizarre assortment of beers that can’t be described in fewer than three words – and which you’ll generally find in places with multiple keg taps!

  10. “over twice as many 25 to 29 year olds in Inner London than in the rest of England”

    Didn’t that seem a bit odd to you as you wrote it? And, well, completely improbable?

    I expect you meant, “As a proportion of the population, there are over twice as many 25 to 29 year olds in Inner London than in the rest of England”.

    That’ll probably be about right. The reasons for this bizarre demographic distortion are probably quite interesting.

    More generally, why do we insist on making comparisons between London and either “Everywhere Else” or “Smaller City” when more meaningful comparisons would be with the other regions like the “North-West” or “East Midlands”. London isn’t a city, it’s a collection of more-or-less crap towns near a city. Like the other regions.

    1. That’s what we assumed the source we’re quoting meant but, no, it’s not expressed very clearly; if we have time, well try to actually look at the census data. At any rate, there are loads of young people in London, is the point.

        1. That’s a suggestive point @mudgie, we could make some guesses about the cultural backgrounds of those young people (he said, carefully), and we could probably guess that a lot of them aren’t blessed with the disposable income required to partake in London’s Craft Beer Explosion. I’m guessing it’s less significant than it looks.

          @B&B Inner London (pop ca. 3.5m ?) has an excess of about 7% in that age group, so something like 250k people more than you’d expect

          i.e. something like 12% of the UK’s 25-29s live in inner London. I wonder where they go when they grow up?

          1. This might be more useful information: 60% of inner London workforce made up of university graduates London workforce now 60% graduates – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25002401

            Anecdotally, lots of London twenty-somethings are like me: grew up somewhere small, studied in a sleepy market city, moved to London for work/thrills, became old and boring, moved away. Most of my pals from London now live in St Albans, Bath, and places like that.

    2. The North West (M’cr + Liverpool + etc), the North East (Newcastle + Sunderland + etc), West Yorkshire (Leeds + Bradford + Sheffield), the West Midlands (Birmingham + Coventry + Wolverhampton), the Bit of Scotland Where People Actually Live (Glasgow + Edinburgh), Wales Ditto (Cardiff + Swansea + P’Talbot)… Any other populous regions? A lot of the country is basically sheep.

      London’s bloody big, though – if you go as far out as Reading or Crawley you’re still in the cultural & economic rain shadow of the place. The London Region would still be twice the size of any of the others.

      1. Nope. If we’re talking NUTS (and why not) the South East pips London. See what I mean? We tend to assume that London is bigger (and more important?) than it is. It becomes a self-fulfilling delusion. Ho hum.

  11. I stopped blogging from the wastes of Wirral. The London types seem to have more to talk about – new breweries, new bars, meet the brewers, fancy imports, invites……….

    My son is 26 is and lives in Liverpool. His girl friend is a nurse who works shifts and if she’s working weekends he often doesn’t go out because most of his friends are working in London which has sucked in all the worthwhile jobs.

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